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NB-IoT vs. LTE-M: What’s the Difference?

4 minute read

Low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks provide long-lasting, lower-complexity, larger bandwidth solutions for IoT devices. LPWA networks are technologies that redefine the way systems are connected and monitored. Due to its support of an abundance of data collection, LPWA networks are becoming more and more popular for IoT devices. According to data published by DataProt, it is estimated that by 2030, the number of connected IoT devices will excel 25.54 billion.

Two types of technologies, Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and Long Term Machine Type Evolution (LTE-M), provide benefits of LPWA: scalability, expansive coverage, and lower costs. While these solutions share similarities, it is also important to understand the difference between them.

What is NB-IoT?

NB-IoT is a LPWA technology developed to reach a wide range of devices while enhancing the power consumption and system capacity. NB-IoT can be best characterized by improved cost efficiency, optimized network structure, and extensive coverage.

The quality of service is polished, extended coverage is established, and reliability is expanded. This LPWA technology leverages cellular connectivity while optimizing battery life and location coverage.

What is LTE-M?

LTE-M, like NB-IoT, is a part of the broader 3GPP standard, which ultimately allows devices to be more attainable through interoperability and resiliency. With cellular connectivity, many solutions require lower data transmissions with less frequency, and LTE-M permits higher bandwidth in comparison to NB-IoT. Some advantages of LTE-M include Voice over LTE (VoLTE) support and compatibility with LTE networks.

Comparable Networks

Both of these networks, NB-IoT and LTE-M, are very close in similarity, and despite having parallel solutions, the complexity of the two distinguishes them. Essentially, at a high-level, both networks issue wide coverage and low power consumption, but LTE-M is intended to offer a higher degree of complexity to authorize VoLTE.

Due to the better latency – and higher complexity – LTE-M has to offer, LTE-M devices can be slightly more expensive than NB-IoT devices in the end. LTE-M is also designed for mobility, while NB-IoT is not. NB-IoT networks are best suited for stationary devices that do not need VoLTE for less connectivity.

Market Growth and Use Cases for LPWA Networks

Currently, there are 110 NB-IoT networks and 60 LTE-M networks across the globe. IoT experts predict that by 2026, NB-IoT and LTE-M will encompass over 60 percent of the 3.6 billion LPWA network connections. The growth and adoption of NB-IoT has influenced the LPWA market and now holds over 44 percent of the market share.

The characteristics of NB-IoT and LTE-M benefit the operations of the following use cases:

  • Fleet and asset tracking
  • Fitness wearables
  • Smart meters in cities
  • Precision agriculture
  • Security systems
  • LPWA networks connect what matters most in our lives, helping businesses operate more efficiently and cost-effective.

Resilient Connectivity with KORE

When in need of low-power IoT devices that support massive ecosystems, KORE has what you need. We offer NB-IoT, LTE-M, and LoRaWAN networks to leverage solutions in fleet, logistics, agriculture, and manufacturing. Our connectivity management tool, ConnectivityProTM, makes it easy to manage your solutions on one single platform.

To learn more about how ConnectivityPro can suit your business needs, check out our demo.

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Topic(s): Connectivity , Featured

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